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Video: Rats Again Run Rampant at Former Guggenheim Lab Site

About a dozen sightings in a little over two and a half minutes.

Cue “Return of the Rat” – the furry fiends are back on First Street.

Last summer when the BMW Guggenheim Lab took over an empty lot between East First and Houston Streets, near Second Avenue, even the project’s detractors begrudgingly gave it credit for cleaning up a longstanding rat infestation. Well, guess what? The rats are back.

A friend who lives a couple doors over from the lot, which is now a park hosting public programming, brought the rodent resurgence to our attention. (She didn’t want to be named lest she gain a reputation on the block as, well, a rat.) “They’ve steadily become more of a presence and now it’s threatening to be what it used to be,” she said, adding that she has started walking in the street again to avoid the stretch of sidewalk on the southern side of First Street, near Second Avenue, where the whiskered interlopers frolic.

Sure enough, minutes after The Local set up to film the rats on a recent evening, they were seen zig-zagging across the sidewalk every 20 seconds or so, scampering from underneath a set of trash containers to a pile of garbage bags across the way. Passersby shrieked at the site of the voluminous vermin. Before long, we bumped into Emily Armstrong, co-author of The Local’s Nightclubbing column and a longtime resident of the Lower East Side. “They’re back!” she exclaimed as she walked her dog on the block. Read more…

Soggy Kick-Off to First Park’s First Season

Photos: Lori Greenberg/Bergworks GBM (final photo courtesy Robert Sestok)

Yesterday’s rain washed out the dance performances and children’s events that were to kick off the inaugural season of programming at the former home of the BMW Guggenheim Museum. But that didn’t stop a few die-hard supporters of First Park from clustering around a newly installed sculpture by Robert Sestok.

The Detroit artist was in high spirits as he unveiled First Street Iron, a ten-foot-tall work of welded steel that he said was a “tribute to the city” he often visited. It will remain on display at the plaza between First and Houston Streets, near Second Avenue, until Oct. 22.

As The Local previously reported, Mr. Sestok first became aware of the restoration at 33 First Street well over two years ago because a close friend lived on the block. He was asked to create something for the park before the BMW Guggenheim opened in the once rat-infested lot. Read more…

The Day | Legal Observer Sues NYPD for Arrest on East 13th

Last day at Kate's JointSuzanne Rozdeba

Good morning, East Village.

The Local snapped the above shot a day before longstanding vegetarian spot Kate’s Joint was seized by its landlord yesterday, presumably due to the back rent it owed.

Gothamist reports that a National Lawyers Guild observer is suing the NYPD for wrongfully arresting him on Second Avenue between East 12th and 13th Streets during an Occupy Wall Street march back in the early hours of New Year’s Day.

A real estate broker tells The Voice that you can still get a deal in the East Village. “You could get a small, two-bedroom apartment [in a walk-up], with a kitchen you could cook in for $3,000 a month,” she says. “I’m not saying the rooms are going to be the size of Texas, but I think that’s a bargain. And you have fantastic restaurants.”
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Fare Thee Well, BMW Lab

EV Grieve notes that the BMW Guggenheim Lab will be dismantled Saturday and Sunday, resulting in the closure of East First Street between First and Second Avenues to traffic during the day. The ballyhooed “urban experiment” hosted its final gathering last weekend and is now bound for Berlin. It’s unclear what is next in store for the lot. A forum last month suggested making it a sculpture garden, or even a cat park.

Last Call at the BMW Guggenheim Lab

BMW Guggenheim Lab: Bleacher seatsScott Lynch

This weekend marks the end of the three-month run of the BMW Guggenheim Lab, and the think tank has an assortment of events lined up to commemorate its closure. Yoga classes, a salon with Clayton Patterson, and plenty of “What have we learned?”-type lectures are scheduled, along with a closing reception Sunday night. Here’s a look back at The Local’s coverage. Will you miss the Lab? The burgers, at least? Read more…

Revisiting the No Wave Scene At The BMW Guggenheim Lab On Sunday

Two of the most comprehensive documentarians of the late-1970s East Village punk scene will give a screening of their rare no wave footage at the BMW Guggeinheim Lab on Sunday.

Bush Tetras at CBGB, 1980.

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John Penley on Occupy Wall Street

John Penley_2

Last seen staging a “takeover” of the BMW Guggenheim Lab, activist and photojournalist John Penley is planning a press conference at City Hall on Monday to address the police’s conduct during the Occupy Wall Street protests. He tells Runnin’ Scared, “Like everyone else I just got so outraged by stuff I’d seen both personally and in some of the videos.”

After The Lab, Lot Will Become Sculpture Garden – and Maybe a Cat Park?

Robert Sestok SculptureCourtesy of Robert Sestok. “First St. Iron.”

What will happen to the BMW Guggenheim Lab once it packs up its video screens and moves on to Berlin? Members of First Street Green – the community group that for years lobbied the city to renovate the lot at Houston Street and Second Avenue – held a brainstorming event at the Lab on Saturday to answer just that. This much is certain: They’ve secured approval from the Parks Department, which owns the land, to install a new sculpture by Robert Sestok, a Detroit-based artist who has been visiting New York for three decades.

Mr. Sestok, who said he has been involved with Detroit’s influential Cass Corridor art movement since the 1970s, called “First St. Iron,” his welded steel sculpture, “a tribute to my past associations with the city of New York.” The piece was inspired by the wrought iron fences lining the streets near a friend’s house in the East Village. Read more…

Watch It Here: David Simon, Live from the BMW Guggenheim Lab Tonight

BMW Guggenheim Lab: Stage is setScott Lynch

If you don’t feel like fighting the crowds down on Houston Street to hear David Simon (writer and producer of “The Wire” and “Treme”) speak at the BMW Guggenheim Lab tonight, why not watch the event stream live, right here at The Local? Grab some popcorn (of the praline variety, of course) and check back here as the 7 p.m. start time nears, to watch Mr. Simon talk about capturing cities on film.

The Day | Walking Against Gentrification

SlowScott Lynch

Good morning, East Village.

East Village cyclists have been put on notice. City workers plan to discard several abandoned bikes near East First Street between Avenue A and First Avenue, according to a Department of Transportation sign spotted by EV Grieve. Better pick yours up by the end of the day.

The New York Daily News profiled former CBGB bartender Jane Danger, owner of Jane’s Sweet Buns. The shop, at 102 St. Marks Place, features baked goods with hints of alcohol, like a Rum Runner bun with nutmeg, cinnamon, raisins, brown sugar, Galliano liqueur and aged rum.

Finally, Neither More Nor Less, Marty After Dark, EV Grieve, and Gothamist have photos from Saturday’s protest against East Village gentrification. Activist John Penley and his crew started at East Third Street, found its way to the BMW Guggenheim Lab and ended at what used to be Mars Bar. A poem was read. A cigarette was lit. Signs were waved, and then the protestors went home.


On The BMW Guggenheim Lab: Are ‘Emerging Talents’ Really What We Need?

BMW Guggenheim Lab: Stage is setScott Lynch

You can tell a lot from the language people use– as well as from the language they don’t use. An online visit to the “mobile” BMW Guggenheim Lab, which recently touched down on Houston Street and Second Avenue in all its up-to-the-minute minimalist splendor, suggests that the “international, interdisciplinary teams of emerging talents” running it are engaged in the paradoxical task of trying to discover “innovative” solutions to intractable urban problems while thinking solely in clichés.

The Web site itself is of course cheery and bright, featuring lots of baby blues, the usual self-promotional videos, fussy graphics, things to click on, and, of course, an Internet letter box in which you – an ordinary citizen! – can post your radical visionary ideas about how to improve the city without even buying a stamp.

The economy is almost beyond repair, world banks are facing a meltdown, entire segments of the population have been served with their divorce papers by any and all employers, but the Guggenheim’s site is full of madly utopian visions such as that eye-catching poster in which all of New York’s major buildings are squeezed into the rectangle usually occupied by Central Park, while the rest of the island becomes a green, pristine forest – much as it was before those horrid Europeans arrived in their high-tech wooden boats. Yeah, that’ll work. Just watch out for the bows and arrows.

In a section of the Web site named “I Meditate NY” – a joke in itself – we read that “creativity is the font of innovation.” This is about as perceptive as stating that “sexuality is the mechanism of reproduction.” There’s a reason certain sentences such as “necessity is the mother of invention” stick around forever, while others barely make it to the end of the week. I think we can agree that “creativity is the font of innovation” belongs in the second category. It’s think-tank language, dead on arrival. Read more…

The Day | Jimmy ‘The Rent is Too Damn High’ McMillan Faces Eviction

Their Downward Dog Needs WorkSusan Keyloun

Good morning, East Village.

Here’s something to consider if you’re considering snatching up one of those rogue cans of Four Loko: Gothamist picked up a study from the Annals of Emergency Medicine that revealed 11 patients under the influence of the banned beverage (10 of them underage) were treated in the Bellevue emergency room in the four month period in late 2010. One patient had fallen onto subway tracks and five others were found unconscious in public places.

The Post’s police blotter (via EV Grieve) has news of a high speed getaway from Tompkins Square Park by a suspected drug dealer. After nearly careening into a sergeant in the stolen minivan he was driving, Robert Ball briefly escaped before hitting traffic and was apprehended.

Also from the Post, word that Jimmy McMillan, who ran for governor on a platform of “the rent is too damn high,” is facing eviction from his $872.96 rent-controlled St. Marks Place apartment. Mr. McMillan’s landlord claims he is in violation of his lease because he actually lives in Brooklyn. Mr. McMillan has vowed to fight the case. Read more…

No Quarter at the Guggenheim Lab, Pt. 2: Rebuffed at Roberta’s

IMG_3239Kim DavisRoberta’s staff had time on their hands while patrons were locked out.

Yesterday, two downtown residents were surprised to be turned away at the BMW Guggenheim Lab, the self-described “part urban think tank, part community center and public gathering space.” Following the first story about a woman and her dog, here’s the second— about a man and his stomach.

Yesterday’s launch of the cafe at the BMW Guggenheim Lab was a wash-out, but not because of the rain.

The cafe is operated by Roberta’s, a Brooklyn-based restaurant with a dizzying buzz factor. Opened as a casual wood-fired pizza joint in a former garage in a bleak, industrial corner of Bushwick, Roberta’s has steadily built a reputation not only for more ambitious food (think tripe and sweetbreads) but for a locavore ethic including herbs grown on the roof, home-baked bread and a Heritage Radio studio in the backyard. A collaboration between Roberta’s and a project to promote “innovative ideas for urban life” must have seemed a no-brainer.

So why did Roberta’s fans find themselves locked out of the compound last night, peering through the railings in the driving rain? The answer given by a door-tender around 6pm was that the screening of “Blank City” in an adjacent tent was sold out. “But we don’t want to go to the screening,” people cried. “We want to eat at the cafe.” Read more…

No Quarter at the Guggenheim Lab, Pt. 1: No Dogs Allowed?

finn, no dogs at Guggenheim LabEmily Armstrong

Yesterday, two downtown residents were surprised when they were turned away at the BMW Guggenheim Lab, the self-described “part urban think tank, part community center and public gathering space.” Here’s the first story, involving a dog named Finn McCool.

I went to the Guggenheim Lab this afternoon, hoping to get a coffee and sit for a while on their picnic benches. I was barred from entry because, here’s a shocker: “Sorry, no dogs allowed.”

The explanation was that there is a cafe on the premises, hence no dogs.

“What about the recently closed and sadly missed Little Veselka down the block in First Park?”, I asked. “Dogs were welcomed there. They even sold a dog biscuit for fifty cents and left out bowls of water for thirsty pets. And, that was also on parks department, New York City property.

The Lab was far from crowded and there was plenty of room for me and Finn McCool (that’s his name).

The guy at the door said they would look into it.

A spokesperson for the Lab told The Local that “dogs are allowed in the park area but not the structure.” Is that the policy which is actually being implemented? What do you think? Should dogs be allowed into the think tank?

Update | 4:30 p.m. A spokesperson for the BMW Guggenheim Lab says that as of yesterday afternoon, “dogs are allowed to come into the park area but not the structure.”

Read No Quarter at the Guggenheim Lab, Pt. 2: Rebuffed at Roberta’s

What’s The Guggenheim Doing in the East Village?

guggenheimlab_004Lauren Carol Smith

In exactly an hour, at 6:15 p.m., The BMW Guggenheim Lab will kick off its film programming with a screening of Blank City. The Local talked with Paul Dallas, the project’s film curator, to see what’s in store for the neighborhood.


How does Blank City reflect the history of the neighborhood?


The film is really a document of the “No Wave” and “Cinema of Transgression” arts scene that happened in the East Village and Lower East Side in the late 1970s and early 1980s. It was the time when people were squatting in buildings, before the real-estate boom of the eighties, and the moment when artists could live in close proximity and foster this anti-establishment sort of art scene. It shows what was happening in music and art at the time through rich moments that have had an effect on artists and filmmakers since.

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The Day | Is Aziz Ansari The Mayor of the East Village?

Laundromat, Lower East Side, New York City - 0001Vivienne Gucwa

Top of the morning to you, East Village!

Ephemeral New York mourns some bygone record shops, including the Saint Mark’s Music Exchange, but it’s not all doom and gloom on St. Marks. EV Grieve notices that the space that briefly housed the CBGB store now hosts a tattoo and tobacco accessories shop. Speaking of CBGB, Bowery Boogie reports that John Varvatos and Jesse Malin of Niagara are teaming up to host a Sirius XM show, “New York Nights…Direct from the Bowery.”

EV Grieve notices web postings indicating that Bar on A seems to be for sale and Banjo Jim will close on Tuesday; meanwhile City Room remembers Mars Bar’s alternate identity as an art gallery, and WNYC also revisits the dive’s closing. Elsewhere on the art scene, EV Grieve gets a glimpse of the BMW Guggenheim Lab’s food menu, by East Williamsburg pizza destination Roberta’s; and the Times considers Chinese artist Ai Weiwei’s online gallery of photographs from the East Village in the 1980s, also on display at the Asia Society.

Finally, New York magazine strolls the neighborhood with onetime “mayor of the East Village” Aziz Ansari. The actor and comedian identifies “East Village dogs” and interrogates a NYC Icy employee: “This is pumpkin flavor, not pumpkin-pie flavor. Pumpkin pie has pie crust in it.”

Where Rats Once Dashed, Toilets Await

Toilets at the BMW Guggenheim LabEmily Armstrong Toilets have been installed at the BMW Guggenheim Lab on First Street.

Rat City” is gone, and now the lot at First Street and First Avenue looks ready to host humans.

An eagle-eyed local passed along photos of new toilets being installed last Thursday at the BMW Guggenheim Lab, which will open on August 3.

“I thought this was a sophomoric art installation, but it’s the real thing,” said Emily Armstrong, who snapped the photos.

In an effort to head off any concerns about unwanted odors, a spokeswoman for the elaborate development at First Avenue and First Street said the toilets would be carefully maintained.

“The bathrooms at the BMW Guggenheim Lab are built with special temporary toilets equipped with water tanks,” said Lauren Van Natten, a spokeswoman for the Guggenheim. “They will be serviced at least once a day.”

Trevor Stahelski, the owner of a building on First Street that is near the high-tech outhouse facing Houston Street, said that the bathrooms were a small price to pay, given what used to be there.

“It’s better than a rat-infested dirt lot. It was just disgusting before,” Mr. Stahelski said. “It’s not the most optimal thing, but I still support it — it won’t be there forever.”

The outhouse at the LabStephen Rex Brown The shed housing the toilets.

Indeed, the BMW Guggenheim Lab will be relatively short-lived; it closes Oct. 16.

During that time, the space will host various events “meant to inspire innovative ideas for urban life,” according to the project’s website. One event on Aug. 6 will encourage visitors to “find and collect sounds around the city, then learn how to remix them into audio tracks.”

Though one prominent local expressed skepticism about the East Village serving as the headquarters of an “urban experiment,” no one has, of yet, lamented the eviction of the hoards of rodents that for years called the space home.

The End of Rat City

IMG_0272Kenan Christiansen The former capital of rats at 33 East First Street.

“It’s the most ratted place around,” the neighbors used to say, but that’s no longer true.

On May 13, a construction crew arrived at the empty lot of 33 East First Street with heavy gear and a back-hoe. Rubble and rock was dumped into the sink hole, jack-hammers hammered, ply went up all around, and by the hour of noon the capital of rats in the southern East Village had fallen.

For some 20 years the rats held sway there, and built up a mighty empire from the lowly abandoned lot. Even the taxi drivers who stopped to refill at the gas station across the street were careful not to venture too close to their lair. They seemed invincible, but now it’s all over.

On the construction permit posted on the fencing, it states that a concrete slab will cover the place, and as The Local reported back in February, that the Guggenheim intends to erect a temporary urban lab at the location. The locals will not soon forget the hoards that lived in burrows under the property. But rat lovers can rest assured that their furry friends are quite alright, and have simply moved on, probably into that collapsed building at Houston and Second Avenue.

From there they will likely intensify their operations, and continue to enjoy their favorite pastime: scaring the tourists.

RAT_CITY_FINAL-Slide07LrgPhoto Illustration by Tim Milk

Museum Helps Solve a Pesky Problem

DSC03576Crystal BellAfter years of complaining about the rat problem in this vacant lot on East First Street, residents will welcome the BMW Guggenheim Lab to the site this summer.

For Ann Shostrom, a local artist and resident of 35 East First Street, the constant screams and shrieks outside her window have become a nightly lullaby. No, her block isn’t particularly violent or dangerous, but it does have a huge problem, or more like thousands of little, scampering ones.

The residents on the block all seem to agree that the rat infestation on First Street between First and Second Avenues is the worst they have ever seen. And chances are if you’ve walked past the vacant lot located on 33 East First Street, then you probably feel the same way.

“I’m so acquainted with the rats now that I’m not afraid of them anymore,” said John Bowman, a professor at Pennsylvania State University and Ms. Shostrom’s husband. “We start to recognize some of them. There’s a big guy I call Bruno. But there are just so many of them. Kids on the block have had a rat safari. It’s dangerous.”

So Ms. Shostrom and her husband decided to take action and in 2008, created First Street Green, a grassroots organization dedicated to cleaning up the lot and turning into a community sculpture park. They raised funds through summer bake sales, art shows and benefits, but progress was slow. But their project received an unexpected boost last year, when the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, decided that the block’s eyesore was the perfect place for their 5,000-square-foot traveling urban lab.

“They have money, and we need something done about the site,” said Ms. Shostrom. “With this economy, the city doesn’t have the money and the Parks Department certainly doesn’t have the money, so this was just perfect for the community.”
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